Sam Charles

Communications Strategist

School of Engineering
Office: EME3251
Phone: 250.807.8136
Email: sam.charles@ubc.ca


Biography

Sam started at the Okanagan campus of the University of British in 2013 as a Senior Media Production Specialist with UBC Studios Okanagan.  After four years in that role, he transitioned into the Communications & Awards Coordinator (now Communications Strategist) role with the School of Engineering.

At the School of Engineering, he is responsible for developing strategic communication materials that highlight the innovative research and experiential learning on the Okanagan campus.  Sam is energized by telling the endlessly inspiring stories of the School’s researchers, students and staff.

With over twenty years of experience in communications, film, television and radio production, Sam is a seasoned professional communicator focused on generating dynamic and engaging content.

Sam has represented Canada three-times at Summer Universiades as Team Canada’s videographer documenting the Games for international audiences.  On Friday nights during the varsity season, he is the play-by-play voice (and technical advisor) for UBC Okanagan Heat basketball and volleyball webcasts on canadawest.tv.

Responsibilities

Integrated strategic communications including social media; Develop, design, and maintain communications content; Media relations; Issues Management; Develop and prepare faculty awards nominations

 

Never one to let an opportunity pass him by, Ilija Hristovski used a networking opportunity at UBC Okanagan’s Aerospace Industry Night to establish an international research internship in Germany at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

Hristovski, one of the executives of the UBC Okanagan Aerospace Club, not only helped organize the 2017 Industry Night but forged a relationship with a DLR representative who was a guest speaker at the event.  The DLR representative (who had a specialty in manufacturing engineering) referred Hristovski to colleagues at DLR’s Institute of Communications and Navigation.

“Networking and persistence definitely pay off when you have a particular goal in mind,” explains Hristovski, who is fast-tracking from his MASc to a PhD next spring.

Since DLR typically does not accept international undergraduate internship students, Hristovski had to wait until he started his Master’s before being accepted into a six-and-a-half month internship.  His experience this summer at DLR translated into directed studies course credits towards his MASc.

Hristovski’s research at DLR focused on correcting atmospheric turbulence for ground-to-satellite communications using a laser guide star method.  Hristovski describes the process as shooting a laser into the upper atmosphere to help optical signals establish an undisturbed path to reach space.  “The initial laser establishes a path for the optical signal to follow; basically bending or adjusting the beam in the most efficient way possible to reduce the negative effects caused by the atmosphere.”

DLR’s Institute of Communications and Navigation is a global leader in this field.  The facility holds the current world-record in free space optical communications links at the highest data rate.

“Where UBC Okanagan excels at component level processes and improvements, I found that DLR was working at the systems’ level,” says Hristovski.  Working in an international environment with interns from around the world, Hristovski and the research team worked on several confidential projects that resulted in one poster presentation and several internal reports.

Although most of his time in Germany was spent in the lab, Hristovski was able to explore some of the surrounding villages when the team undertook a 10-kilometre optical link test between mountains.  “The work was so interesting that you’d wake up in the morning, and want to run to the lab,” says Hristovski.

One of the biggest accomplishments for Hristovski stemming from this experience is building a PhD collaboration between his supervisor, Jonathan Holzman and colleagues at DLR.  Hristovski will most likely return to Germany next summer and start experiments related to those studies.

“I’m ecstatic about this next chapter of my research, and can’t wait to get started.”

At 75-years young, Murray Forbes says it’s never too late to learn

Like all engineering students, Murray Forbes wants to be an engineer. In fact, he has a very clear idea of the type of engineer he wants to be.

Forbes stands out a bit amongst the class of 2023. He calls himself a “mature student,” and he is. Murray Forbes is 75-years-young.

After a long career in the aviation industry, Forbes decided to pursue a degree that he aspired to, but never had the chance complete when he was younger.

In elementary school, he was never the strongest student and was challenged by math and science, he explains.  It didn’t help that he attended 13 different schools across three continents as his mother was an entrepreneur who ran cattle ranch kitchens, owned a small grocery store, was a teletype operator for the Canadian Pacific Fleet and also operated a seniors care home.

“After school, I attended seminary and by the time I got to college I had two children and one on the way,” explains Forbes.

The rigours of school and family life made him switch to an aviation diploma. He started working after graduating, but still had the education bug so he tackled an engineering diploma in aeronautical and navigation, doing it all by distance education.

For the past 40 years, including 20 running his own firm at the Kelowna International Airport, Forbes worked in aviation—modifying and repairing fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Although he loved the work, one aspect of business bothered him.

“I have basically been doing engineering work, but had to hire engineers to sign off on my work.”

Part of the impetus of returning to school stemmed from the relationship he had with those engineers. His family has a history of later-life career changes—his mother returned to school in her late 60s to become a realtor, and had a fruitful career in that field until her mid-80s.

“Fortunately, I’m still healthy,” says Forbes. “I’ve built some boats (as a hobby) and I don’t need to build another boat.”

He says he simply needed something to do, and his bucket list included getting an engineering degree.

The process hasn’t been entirely smooth. Forbes had to first attend college to upgrade his high school accreditation. He then earned an associate degree from Okanagan College, brushing up on his math and science.

Does it bother him that his classmates are young enough to be his grand children? Not at all. Working with young people, he says, has been one of the best perks of the back-to-school experience.

“They have been amazingly accepting, and someone is always helping me.”

Working in a complex industry for many years, juggling dozens of jobs at the same time was a normal occurrence, so the adjustment to the workload at the School of Engineering hasn’t been a shock for Forbes.

“Having spent years juggling multiple projects and deadlines has definitely helped with transitioning into the program.”

Work and life balance is also an issue for the 75-year-old student, perhaps more so than his academic counterparts.

“Balancing a home life, with a wife and home, along with five courses can be stressful,” says Forbes.

His latest challenge has been mastering Solidworks, a modeling computer-aided design and computer-aided engineering program that renders 3D designs.

Ultimately, his goal is to become an engineer like the ones he would hire when he ran his aviation business—someone who knew what they were doing because of breadth of their experience.

“I probably won’t graduate until I’m 80,” he says. “But I am really enjoying the trip.”

 

The School of Engineering is thrilled to announce its 2019 Student Ambassador Team.  This group of enthusiastic current students from each program discipline help provide prospective and current students a personal and informative connection to UBC Okanagan Engineering.

The ambassadors represent UBC and the School of Engineering at outreach and community events while coordinating activities and workshops.  Equally as important, the student ambassadors are providing mentorship to their peers both in person and through social media channels.

WE ASKED THE AMBASSADORS WHY THEY THINK THE ROLE IS IMPORTANT?

Von Acosta, 2nd year Mechanical

To promote engineering and STEM programs to future prospects who are considering taking this career.

Aliyah Ayorinde, 2nd year Electrical

This year I really wanted to focus on engaging with my community, and what better way than to be an ambassador for it? I’m really looking forward to representing the School of Engineering, and I hope that I can express some of the more unexpected sides of the discipline.

Rhianna Dunlop, 3rd year Mechanical

To highlight my experiences in engineering with those considering entering into an engineering program!

Owais Hashmi, 4th year Mechanical

Desire to share experiences with others and gain new experiences myself

Nicole Keeler, 2nd year Civil

I wanted to be a SOE Student Ambassador to provide a link between new students and the School of Engineering

Tuguldur Ulziidelger, 2nd year Electrical

I know that Student Ambassadors can be tremendously helpful to current and prospective students. At the same time, the experience and perspective that this position can offer to me was very valuable.

Haytham Zhang, 2nd year Civil

To showcase how exciting and fun engineering Is to the community and it really can be a program for everyone

 

 

 

 

 

In his first year of undergraduate studies at UBC Okanagan, Logan Tarasoff was introduced to the sport of powerlifting.  According to Tarasoff, the sport encouraged him to establish clear goals to work towards. “If I had a competition coming up in 6 months, I could set some goals then work backwards to determine what I need to do in order to meet those goals.”

That focus and drive led to Tarasoff earning several medals at last month’s Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in Newfoundland.

Originally from Kamloops, Tarasoff decided to attend the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan because he liked the smaller campus and its proximity to home.  “I saw an opportunity for more interactions with faculty, and it has led to some strong working relationships with researchers on this campus.”

Tarasoff recently returned to campus, after a short hiatus, to start his Masters studies in electrical engineering. His research focuses on using computer vision to improve forestry harvesting equipment.

Inspired by his co-op experience in the forestry sector, Tarasoff is excited to get started.  “I saw first-hand the trouble the current system experiences with accuracy related to variables like bark thickness and changes in environment.”  Tarasoff points out that his co-op terms also provided insight into what a research project needs to succeed in industry.

Through computer-visioning, the system that Tarasoff plans on building will provide real-time assessments of the logs’ size and shape providing the automated harvester with fast and accurate information.  Tarasoff is conducting his research under the supervision of Dr. Homayoun Najjaran in the Advanced Control and Intelligent Systems (ACIS) Laboratory. He will pursue his passion for learning more about robotics and automation in an industrial project in partnership with Axis Forestry.

Collaborations with logging contractors in the Interior has been one of the many benefits of conducting this research at UBC Okanagan.  “We plan on going out to their sites, and getting their input into our progress.”

With most of the big manufacturers in the forestry sector outside North America, Tarasoff says his research will bring innovation to the industry leading to more affordable equipment and further efficiencies for Canadian producers.

Over the next couple of years, Tarasoff has a lot of goals both in powerlifting and his research.  “I hope to place well at our next national competition as I will be competing in the open category, and more importantly, I want to create some computer vision algorithms that do what we want and demonstrate it can work as well if not better than a regular mechanical system.”

 

 

 

New funding will bring Indigenous-focused modules into the Engineering curriculum.
The initiative is funded by UBC Okanagan’s Aspire Learning and Teaching (ALT) Fund. The Fund supports curriculum change, innovative teaching practices and learning environment enhancements as envisioned by the campus’ strategic plan.
Over the next three years, the initiative will see Indigenous-focused modules added to the Engineering curriculum to enhance the existing Applied Science program.
The School of Engineering’s Ian Foulds and Jannik Eikenaar are leading the initiative.
“Research indicates there are numerous benefits from incorporating case studies into the classroom and it is especially helpful in bridging theory and practice” explains Foulds.
Building the modules is only one of the focuses of the initiative, according to Eikenaar. “Just as importantly, this initiative will include training for our faculty members to help them build this content into their existing courses.”
Faculty will be provided with training that includes best practices for using the modules, and cultural sensitivity training.
“One of the goals of the School of Engineering is to increase community outreach initiatives that promote engineering for under-represented populations” explains Foulds. “By building awareness and understanding among our students, staff, and faculty members, , we hope to better support our Indigenous students and engage with Indigenous communities.”
The initiative is also a response to The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for educators to “build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect” (Calls to Action, clause 63).
The modules will include case studies that highlight historical contexts and legal requirements for consultation with Indigenous communities. They will also provide tools to develop strong working relationships with Indigenous peoples through cultural understanding.
Once the modules are fully incorporated into the curriculum, Foulds and Eikenaar hope it leads to a more equitable and inclusive learning environment.
“As awareness of Indigenous contexts increases in our undergraduate population, and best practices for consultation and engagement are developed, we expect to see proposals for course‐based projects that involve collaboration with Indigenous communities” explains Foulds.

Approximately 2000 Engineering students will directly benefit from this initiative over the next three years.

For more information about the Aspire Learning and Teaching Fund at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia visit https://altfund.ok.ubc.ca/

New research has uncovered a new, fast and highly-accurate means of measuring contaminants in water.  It could mean rapid detection of different types of contaminants that current methods may miss including low-levels of pesticides and hydrocarbons.

Pipelines can rupture or have slow leaks that release oil products into ground-water or waterways.  Similarly, storms can move pesticides off agricultural lands and into neighbouring waterways.

This new assessment tool could provide an improved mechanism for municipal, agricultural and industrial stakeholders to mobilize when contamination occurs.

“Our initial findings are very favorable and show a high level of accuracy” explains Nicolas Peleato, an assistant professor at UBC’s Okanagan campus.  “We were specifically looking at a few key pesticides and hydrocarbons leaching into waterways, but this process can easily be adapted for several other contaminants.”

There is currently a need for methods that can rapidly monitor harmful environmental contaminants in surface waters.

By using a fluorescence-based method, rapid detection of contaminants at levels typically observed during contamination events, can be measured.   The method involves using a beam of light that excites electrons in molecules of certain compounds causing them to emit light and be identified.

The new tool differs from existing test methods because it utilizes a novel process that considers background interference from compounds naturally present in surface waters.

“Modelling is very important in this process,” says Peleato, “it enables us to provide lower detection limits and increase accuracy.”  The researchers are now looking into advanced data-driven methods to further lowering detection limits and increasing confidence in the method.

Real-time monitoring system for environmental contaminants can also be a valuable tool for assessing water quality compliance.

Peleato is confident this new approach will make waves.  “Some additional testing is required, but we feel this tool will one-day be included in environmental monitoring practices working along-side the more rigorous and time-consuming lab-based system currently in place; that oversees industrial contamination events.”

The research was led by Yang Ye along with UBC Okanagan assistant professor Nicolas Peleato and in collaboration with Prof. Raymond Legge (University of Waterloo) and Prof. Robert Andrews (University of Toronto).  It was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Industrial Chair in Drinking Water Research at the University of Toronto.

The School of Engineering is pleased to announce that Dr. Rudolf Seethaler has been appointed MEng Coordinator.

In this newly created role, Dr. Seethaler will work closely with the School’s associate director of graduate studies, Richard Klukas, (and the graduate studies committee) to provide support and direction for the MEng program.  His responsibilities will include advising course selection for MEng students.

The course-based MEng program is designed for engineering graduates who want to advance their careers with further education. The program is offered for both full- and part-time students (part-time studies are open to domestic students only).  Students select courses in consultation with the program to suit career interests, and requires the approval of the program.

“This new role will provide our MEng students with a central point of contact,” says Mina Hoorfar, director of the School of Engineering. “Course selection is pivotal for student success in this program, and we are confident that under Dr. Seethaler’s tutelage, students will enjoy a fulfilling academic experience.”

The new appointment is effective immediately.

For more information about graduate studies at the School of Engineering, visit https://engineering.ok.ubc.ca/programs-admissions/grad/

Students from Northwestern Polytechnical University (also known as NPU; Chinese: 西北工业大学), in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China, recently visited UBC’s Okanagan campus to participate in an intensive research program led by School of Engineering faculty.

The enriched academic content including research activities was targeted at first and second-year NPU students from a variety of disciplines including engineering.  It also included cultural extra-curricular activities on and off campus.

Over 30 students took part in the program that spearheaded by Dr. Ray Taheri.

The summer program is a first step towards future collaborations between the two institutions.

In summer 2018, a group of School of Engineering faculty members led by Associate Dean, Prof. Sadiq and School Director, Prof. Hoorfar, visited NPU.  At the time, the two institutions agreed to future collaborations in three key areas:

  • Recruiting graduate students
  • Conducting research and securing funding
  • Visiting/exchange faculty members and students

One NPU student will commence graduate studies at the School of Engineering this Fall, and another summer research program is in the works for 2020.

Shannon Hohl is the 2019 University of British Columbia Okanagan’s Staff Award of Excellence recipient in the enhancing the UBC Experience category.

Hohl was nominated through two separate nomination packages; one prepared by graduate students and another by faculty and staff.

“Shannon’s greatest strength is her ability to interface with everyone, and graduate students in particular, in a cheerful, pleasant, respectful and patient manner,” says Richard Klukas, associate director of graduate studies at the School of Engineering.  Simply put, Klukas says “Shannon knows her job and does it well.”

According to the past president of the Engineering Graduate Student Society, Uchenna Anyaoha, Hohl’s patience, kindness, and resourcefulness were keys to her ability to contribute to the UBC experience.  “We (graduate students) commend the efforts she has shown with her office and also applaud the positive energy she brings to every conversation with her.”

The Staff Awards of Excellence celebrate outstanding contributions that enable UBC’s Okanagan campus to achieve its strategic imperatives, and to contribute to the commitment of creating an outstanding work environment.  There are five award categories including enhancing the UBC experience (customer service), leadership, sustainability, global citizenship and Okanagan campus spirit.

Hohl was formally recognized at the 2019 Deputy Vice-Principal’s Fall Town Hall on August 29, 2019 in a presentation led by Gillian Henderson, director of human resources.

For more information about the Staff Awards of Excellence visit https://hr.ok.ubc.ca/learning/awards/staffexcellence/

The School of Engineering is pleased to announce that Drs. Jannik Eikenaar and Sabine Weyand have been appointed as Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Advisors.

The appointments align with the School’s “Building for Tomorrow” 2025 Strategic Goals document that highlighted inclusivity and diversity as core attributes in creating a more welcoming environment for all to thrive.

Drs. Eikenaar and Weyand will be responsible for directing and supporting activities aimed at making the School of Engineering a welcoming and inclusive place for all.  The EDI Advisors will oversee four key pillars, including workplace environment, physical space, curriculum, and student experience, and assist in coordinating outreach activities.

“These EDI roles are essential for building and fostering a positive culture and environment for all our students, faculty, staff and collaborators,” explains Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq.  “Our School has already successfully developed many initiatives required for ensuring inclusion for all, but more work is needed.”

Workplace environment and physical space will be supervised by Dr. Weyand.  Weyand, an instructor in mechanical engineering focused on biomedical engineering, says the intent is to build a culture that embraces inclusion for all.  “Through training and mentoring programs, the aim is to create an environment where under-represented groups can thrive.”  Along those lines, changes to the physical space of the School of Engineering will focus on more accessible and welcoming areas, signage and events.

Dr. Eikenaar will be responsible for the curriculum and student experience pillars.  According to Eikenaar, a technical communication instructor, Indigenizing the engineering curriculum is on-going while additional curricular initiatives are in the works.  “Ensuring that the curriculum is accessible to all our students is essential, and so is ensuring that our students feel included and heard.”  A student reporting system is being developed that will enable students to provide feedback directly to the EDI Advisors.

The EDI Advisors will work closely with Dr. Sheryl Staub-French, Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, in the Faculty of Applied Science.

For more information about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives, you can reach out directly to Drs. Jannik Eikenaar or Sabine Weyand.